Flash flooding highlights need for more affordable insurance and better infrastructure – Cass professor warns

Last weekend saw extraordinary levels of rainfall in London, causing flash flooding across the capital in the immediate aftermath of devastating flooding in Western Germany.

In response to the incidents, Professor of Strategic Management at the Business School (formerly Cass), Professor Paula Jarzabkowski, is calling for the expansion of insurance schemes and better infrastructure.

“Flash flooding is very difficult to predict because it relates to changes in the built environment and how excess water affects drainage,” Professor Jarzabkowski said.

“As weather patterns become worse, existing drainage and environmental planning will no longer provide adequate defences against increased rainfall and stronger storms. Areas that have not previously been prone to flooding are increasingly susceptible to severe cases, which could move them from being unexpected random events – which are insurable – to increasingly frequent, severe and expected events which are much harder to cover.”

With changing patterns putting pressure on improvements to infrastructure, Professor Jarzabkowski also called on disaster schemes to focus funds on development, and closer integration between local and national governments, insurance providers and planning to tighten regulations.

“Increased frequency and severity of floods must lead to expansion of initiatives like Flood Re to help ensure affordable insurance as more and more properties become vulnerable. Planning and measures must also include small businesses whose owners’ livelihoods are equally at risk.

“The bigger picture is considering how protection gap entities can contribute to increasing physical resilience of locations to protect people from flooding.

“It is important that enabling people to get flood insurance to pay for recovery isn’t also just disguising the initial problem: these sorts of properties may no longer be adequately resilient in the face of growing threats. We need to use claims data to pinpoint how to improve the built environment for flooding.

“Ultimately, protection gap entities should be using funds to support flood-resilient infrastructure. At the same time, we need to see tighter integration between local and national governments and planning procedures, and building regulations to support more resilient architecture that will enable properties to be insured at an affordable price.

“Insurance is one key way of being able to pay for the costs of damage, but to do this we’re going to need to keep damage as something that is exceptional rather than something that happens as a matter of course.”

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